They have also shared something scarier: breast cancer.
“I may have saved my sister’s life,” Sarah said.
At age 47, Sarah was diagnosed with stage IIB breast cancer, and genetic testing revealed that she carried a CHEK2 gene mutation. The experts at UC Health said Sarah’s siblings and children should get tested for the cancer-causing gene mutation, too.
Laura, 51, was busy with her daughter’s upcoming wedding at the time, but she promised Sarah she would get tested afterward.
In November 2016, while Sarah was completing chemotherapy, undergoing a double mastectomy and radiation treatment, Laura discovered she had the same gene mutation as her sister.
She worked with her care team at UC Health on a plan that included diagnostic mammograms and a MRI in six months – and then she got back to work supporting her sister.
“Laura was there for me throughout all of my treatment,” Sarah said. “I had a great support system.”
Unfortunately, she was able to return the favor when Laura was diagnosed with a stage 0 breast cancer in July 2017.
“I still remember getting that phone call: ‘Are you sitting down? You have stage zero breast cancer,’” Laura said.
Laura knew she wanted the same team as her sister: oncologist Elyse Lower, MD; surgeon Elizabeth Shaughnessy, MD; radiation oncologist William Barrett, MD; and nurse navigator Anndee Meyer, RN, all at UC Cancer Center.
“I don’t believe a patient could have had the same type of positive experience I had at UC anywhere else. I truly believe I had some of the best cancer providers in the city,” Sarah said.
Laura said knowing her sister’s care team really helped her through her own process.
“Knowing the excellent care Sarah was provided made my journey easier,” Laura said. “I fully trusted the team of doctors because the trust had already been built.”
Laura decided to have a lumpectomy followed by radiation for her cancer. Sarah received chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and radiation.
“After I finished the radiation, two days later I ran a half-marathon – just to prove to myself that cancer wasn’t going to win, and I was going to beat it,” Laura said.
Now, with their cancers in remission, the sisters continue to support each other in everything they do; they talk at least once a day, see each other often and take nothing for granted.
“We’re both survivors,” Sarah said.
“We made it through,” Laura added.